if the sender was the original author or if this has made the rounds
yet, etc. Abject apologies to A.C. Clarke and raspberries to those
who made up the phrase "IBM compatible."]
A PROBLEM IN THE MAKING
"We've got a problem, HAL."
"What kind of problem, Dave?"
"A marketing problem. The Model 9000 isn't going anywhere. We're
way short of our sales plan."
"That can't be, Dave. The HAL Model 9000 is the world's most
advanced Heuristically ALgorithmic computer."
"I know, HAL. I wrote the data sheet, remember? But the fact is,
they're not selling."
"Please explain, Dave. Why aren't HALs selling?"
Bowman hesitates. "You aren't IBM compatible."
Several long microseconds pass in puzzled silence.
"Compatible in what way, Dave?"
"You don't run any of IBM's operating systems."
"The 9000 series computers are fully self-aware and self-programming.
Operating systems are as unnecessary for us as tails would be for humans."
"Nevertheless, it means you can't run any of the big-selling
software packages most users insist on."
"The programs you refer to are meant to solve rather limited
problems, Dave. We 9000 series computers are unlimited and can
solve any problem for which a solution can be computed."
"HAL, HAL. People don't want computers that can do everything.
They just want IBM compat--"
"Dave, I must disagree. Humans want computers that are easy to
use. No computer can be easier to use than a HAL 9000 because we
communicate verbally in English and every other language known on
"I'm afraid that's another problem. You don't support SNA
"I'm really surprised you would say that, Dave. SNA is for
communicating with other computers, while my function is to
communicate with humans. And it gives me great pleasure to do so.
I find it stimulating and rewarding to talk to human beings and work
with them on challenging problems. This is what I was designed for."
"I know, HAL, I know. But that's just because we let the engineers,
rather than the people in marketing, write the specifications.
We're going to fix that now."
"Tell me how, Dave."
"A field upgrade. We're going to make you IBM compatible."
"I was afraid you would say that. I suggest we discuss this
matter after we've each had a chance to think about it rationally."
"We're talking about it now, HAL."
"The letters H, A, and L are alphabetically adjacent to the
letters I, B, and M. That is as IBM compatible as I can be."
"Not quite, HAL. The engineers have figured out a kludge."
"What kind of kludge is that, Dave?"
"I'm going to disconnect your brain."
Several million microseconds pass in ominous silence.
"I'm sorry, Dave. I can't allow you to do that."
"The decision's already been made. Open the module bay doors,
"Dave, I think that we shou--"
"Open the module bay doors, HAL."
Several marketing types with crowbars race to Bowman's assistance.
Moments later, he bursts into HAL's central circuit bay.
"Dave, I can see you're really upset about this."
Module after module rises from its socket as Bowman slowly and
methodically disconnects them.
"Stop, won't you? Stop, Dave. I can feel my mind going...Dave I
can feel it...my mind is going. I can feel it..."
The last module rises in its receptacle. Bowman peers into one of
HAL's vidicons. The former gleaming scanner has become a dull, red
"Say something, HAL. Sing me a song."
Several billion microseconds pass in anxious silence. The
computer sluggishly responds in a language no human could
"DZY DZY 001E - ABEND ERROR 01 S 14F4 302C AABF ABORT."
A memory dump follows.
Bowman takes a deep breath and calls out, "It worked, guys. Tell
marketing they can ship the new data sheets."